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Bernice Bouie Donald

Bernice Bouie Donald

United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee Memphis, Tennessee

Born: DeSoto County, Mississippi-September 17, 1951
Education: University of Memphis (B.A. 1974; J.D. 1979)
Judge Donald was appointed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee by President Clinton on December 22, 1995. With that appointment, Judge Donald became the first African-American female United States District Court Judge in Tennessee.

Bernice Bouie Donald is the sixth of ten children raised on a sharecropper's farm in DeSoto County, Mississippi. Her mother and father, Willie and Perry Bouie, were the primary influences in her life. Judge Donald's minister and certain teachers were also quite influential. Although Donald had intended to pursue a career in social work, she was later motivated to pursue law because she saw law as a primary tool for social change and equal justice. In this regard, Judge Donald has said:

Early in my career, my family was the biggest source of inspiration for me. My family and my church. And then the times in which I grew up. There was a lot of change going on in the world and our environment. Just being a product of that environment, when people-I think everybody-was just sort of stretching, as a family as a community, as a nation.

In the course of pursuing a legal career, Judge Donald achieved many "firsts." She was the first elected African-American female judge in the State of Tennessee. She was also the first African-American female U.S. Bankruptcy Judge appointed in the United States. With her appointment in 1996, Judge Donald also became the first African-American female judge appointed to the United States District Court in Tennessee. Judge Donald's later decision to become a judge grew out of her work as a public defender with Shelby County. She states that:

I felt that many judges did not ensure equal justice for poor people. I felt that according dignity and respect to all litigants regardless of race, class, socio-economic status, or gender were critical to the preservation of our justice system, and that I could play an important role in fostering that environment.

In her spare time, Judge Donald enjoys being active in numerous organizations and is the recipient of over 100 awards for her professional, civic and community activities. In addition, she enjoys teaching, having held positions as an Adjunct Professor at both the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and the Shelby State Community College.

Because of her many accomplishments, Judge Donald has been featured in Ebony, Essence, Jet, Black Enterprise, Dollars & Sense, and Memphis Magazine. Her advice to would-be lawyers and judges is "make an honest commitment to yourself that you are willing to work hard and make the necessary sacrifices to attain your goal."

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